Mind Over Matter: Ruminating Roadblocks: Here is How to Help it

Sara Paredes, Feature Editor

According to the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Anxiety Center, rumination is the process where one engages in repetitive negative thought processes that loop continuously in one’s mind without end. Similar to overthinking, a process where one thinks about something too much for too long, rumination differs in the sense that it focuses on overthinking about the past and the future, and feels like a never-ending cycle of thoughts about problems that, in some cases, do not have solutions. When one ruminates, they take themselves out of the “now,” and place their thoughts in the future or past tense, creating anxieties, worries and concerns. 

The following tips can aid in recognizing when an overthinking habit becomes ruminating, and how to help prevent those negative thoughts. 

  1. Redirect Your Attention

If you find yourself trapped in the vicious rumination cycle, consider finding a distraction or directing your attention toward something new— without a second thought. According to the New York Times, in a 2008 study, 60 college-age students were asked to recall a time when they felt sad or upset. They were then told to either spend time ruminating, focusing on mindfulness exercises or distracting themselves with other activities. Those who ruminated prolongedly were found with extended negative moods, while those who spent their time with distractions had lessened rumination and those who practiced mindfulness exercises neither improved or worsened their moods. 

  1. Set a Stress or Worry Timer

Sometimes to help relieve stress or worries, it is best to immerse oneself in the stress for a rigid amount of time. When one ruminates, they may begin to feel guilty about ruminating, which then elevates worry or stress. Set aside 10-30 minutes to immerse yourself in the moment— journaling or another kind of cathartic activity can help relieve stress. 

  1. Steer Clear of Triggers

Referring to mostly social media and overconsumption, at times, scrolling aimlessly on TikTok or Instagram and seeing something upsetting can instill feelings of stress or anxiety, which feed a rumination habit. When scrolling on social media, try using the “dislike,” “block” or “not interested” buttons and features freely, especially when one feels as though these apps do more harm than good. 

In some cases, rumination may serve as a sign of a more intense mental health illness and could require outside intervention from mental health professionals. For students under serious stress and pressure, rumination may present itself frequently. Practicing meditation, journaling, listening to music, reading and other activities are some of the many ways to bring oneself down to earth and put one’s mindset in the “now.”